Tales from the Laundromat

We needed some photos for promotional purposes; apparently people want to see these things.  A location was needed, but where?  The laundromat seemed like the prime location; after all, it served well for the inside covers of Save Yourself.
A girl named Mel sat in the corner, and sheepishly after a while, asked Tom if he needed any help.  He said no initially, but brought her on board later on for light holding duties.  She dutifully complied with his directions and seemed quite pleased to be assisting.  As her washing and drying ran, she played tripod, light mount and sunblocker.  Eventually we were done, and said thank you by buying her a latte with two sugars.  The coffee was very hot.

We needed some photos for promotional purposes; apparently people want to see these things.  A location was needed, but where?  The laundromat seemed like the prime location; after all, it served well for the inside covers of Save Yourself.

A girl named Mel sat in the corner, and sheepishly after a while, asked Tom if he needed any help.  He said no initially, but brought her on board later on for light holding duties.  She dutifully complied with his directions and seemed quite pleased to be assisting.  As her washing and drying ran, she played tripod, light mount and sunblocker.  Eventually we were done, and said thank you by buying her a latte with two sugars.  The coffee was very hot.

more strangers, and a smoker

A group of them walked past, obviously tipsy, having a good time, dressed up to the sevens.  One returned from the apartment they went into; not quite hipsterorgay material, but enough of each category that you’d ask the question, at least in your head.  He paused entering the convenience store, and on his way out, walked over and pointed a cigarette packet at me, his lack of a lighter obvious.

“Do you smoke?”
“No, I don’t sorry.”
“You’re really cute.”

He walked off near-instantly, and I was surprised enough that the hesitation in my chuffed laugh and thank you were an instant too late.  A few minutes later, an intensely energetic young black woman with a band-aid on her chin approached and remarked on my lack of a hat, words tumbling out I didn’t understand.  She returned with her groceries, and a small orange corrugated paper coffee cup, depositing it at my feet and dropping some coins in.  Her near-meth-like enthusiasm was overwhelming but appreciated as she ran back to the car.  When she was out of sight, I emptied the cup and disposed of it, but not without appreciating the gesture.

A man who might have been drunk or special mumbled something I couldn’t understand and staggered past, getting money out, then going back to the bottle shop.  At the call of my instincts I went back to the house of the people I’d met the previous week on the way home to give them a copy of the CD, where I met the remaining housemate Stef and her boyfriend with no name.  Both looked formerly of the hardcore scene, formerly my people.  We conversed about our houses and how I build the internet until I decided I couldn’t be interesting much longer, and made my exit.

A cat slunk into the driveway and into the shadows, not to be seen again.  A pang of hunger, and no memory of dinner.  Tonight went somewhere, but I’m not sure where.

writing and requests from strangers

I bought a pen and paper and sat inside to write.  Not much lyrically, but musically the taps opened.  I crafted a two-part verse and a chorus for a new song, but only one verse worth of lyrics.  My washing was done super fast, and into the dryer.  Suddenly it was dry, and it was time to depart.  I felt satisfied; writing had opened up something that had been off for a while and I was starting to see things for what they were.

I walked home playing, and some people sitting out the front of a house that smelt of red wine and cigarettes down asked me to stop and play a song for them, so I did, uncharacteristically nervous as my voice was unhappy from last night’s assault of cheap liquor and tobacco, my leg shaking from supporting me on the strange angle of the hill.  It was one’s birthday, and another was visiting from Darwin.  I accepted a glass of wine and we chatted and shared stories while I idly played and discussed music ethics.  In the distance, a car accelerated to redline, while a possum ambled along the power line.  I made my departure and returned home to sleep, ready to face the day tomorrow.

drunk and generous

I went out of my way to not take money from people last night.  When I politely refused their donations, one boy apologised.  Later, a man in his 30’s congratulated me and walked back to his truck.  A girl in her 20s pondered for a second before deciding this was A Good Thing and went on her way.

But the streets, as always, have their own plans for such endeavours.  An older man in his 60s approached and danced, smelling slightly of vodka and seeming too drunk to understand anything more than the occasional noun.  After a few minutes, he stuffed a five dollar note in the neck of the guitar, and danced further while I jammed.  After a while, he retired to the bottle shop, and returned to dance further.  He reached inside his light blue backpack (which looked very out-of-place) to retrieve a 375ml bottle of Smirnoff, and offered me some.  I declined, and he drank some and continued to dance.  After looking in his wallet for more money, and finding it empty, he went into the convenience store, withdrew $20 from the ATM and came back, folding it up and poking it into the headstock between the strings.  He rocked out as I improvised and solo’d, transitioning slowly from folk to metal, and eventually was distracted by shiny things, wandering off into the night, stopping only to abuse strangers at the top of his lungs.

I abandoned my laundry shortly after to take Heather to her Christmas present, returning to find it dried and ready for collection.

a flock of photographers

One of the more satisfying acknowledgements playing on the street is the head nod.  It doesn’t say thank you, hello, or comment.  It just acknowledges that you are doing something, and that the other person approves with respect.  I get these sometimes. Tonight there were four; three from a passing car, and one from a guy walking with his girlfriend.  It’s satisfying and for something that’s essentially a tiny movement, surprisingly meaningful.

I noticed two men walk past, one carrying an artist’s folio folder.  A few minutes later I notice a small group down the road, and as they approach, I see a camera.  Two cameras.  Three cameras, big lenses, fancy flashes.  The photographers and their friends converge on me and I’m asked if I’m busking.  I pause the lyrics to the song in my head and keep on playing; the conversation ensues over the tail end of This Is My Resolve.  I make my explanation, and in return receive impressed surprise.

The group bustle down the street after a minute, finding more things to shoot.  As they pass the Thai restaurant, I forget to sing the last line of the song as it finishes.

eye contact

After going home sick from work, I was too tired and headachey to be awkward and uncomfortable with convenience store girl.  She said she’d put Save Yourself into rotation around different times of the day in the store so different groups of people would hear it.  I thought she was joking but I had a couple of people come out and comment ‘nice cd’.  She’d been playing it while I was outside 10m down playing.

A 20-something guy who looked like he was from the internet came up to give me money and got as far as being right in front of me before realising there was no receptacle.  He asked, I said no, he said, “Well.  This is awkward then.  Have this anyway.” and handed me a dollar.  I laughed and thanked him, and he pottered off.

A pair of 16 year olds on longboards who’d heard the CD in the shop came out to talk afterwards.  They asked about the band.  Older bottle shop guy came out to listen.  An older couple thanked me for playing.  A woman in her mid-30’s driving a beige Kombi commented on the lack of a hat, but her compatriot was too wasted to understand that I’d just said I wasn’t, and slowly but surely balanced a 50 cent piece on top of my drink bottle.

The thing I love most is exchanging eye contact with passengers in cars driving past.

a skating harmonica-er..ist

It was the first time I’d seen the blonde girl work works at the convenience store since I awkwardly managed to fumble out that I’d made a record and I was giving her a copy.  I’d usually stop in for a drink and she’d come out and listen for a while.  She said that a few of the songs kept getting stuck in her head and she’s played it in the store a few times.

A chinese girl came out of her house and watched from afar for ten minutes.  A man named Damo with a skateboard and a harmonica stopped to talk.  He could speak japanese and wanted to go back there to live (again) to play music.  A couple, him fresh from work still in hi-vis shirt, her adorned in a tie-dyed dress, stayed the whole time with their washing and exchanged pleasantries as our paths crossed.

Blonde convenience store girl walked by on her way home.  It was awkward yet not uncomfortable, like all our interactions.

i forgot to tell her my name

I’d found a stash of milk crates that made a much better seat than my usual perch, and there weren’t many people coming past on account of how late it was.  But near the end of my washing/set, a girl came to the convenience store in a singlet, pyjama pants and a pair of flipflops.  She tied her dog, a medium sized black furry thing, up on the lamppost on my side of the convenience store door and went inside.  On the way out, she came over and spoke to me.

“Where’s your hat?”
What?
“Your hat - for people to put money in.”
Oh, I’m not busking - just doing my laundry.
“Oh - I was going to give you money.”
You can still do that if you want.
“Ok, here you go.  I am going to sit and listen to a song.”

I played Optics as she sat and listened intently.  I was oddly nervous, but equal parts not, lost in the song and sharing it with someone new, someone I didn’t know.  Someone I’d never met until 30 seconds ago but I was telling about one of my greatest losses.  The moment was broken by another girl walking another dog - both considerably bigger than the ones I’d found, and both far less friendly.  While mine tried to avoid having her dog eaten by what could well have been a small angry bitey horse, I wound down to the end of the song.  She decided to go after that - a shame, only 15 seconds left, but at least we missed awkward conversation afterwards.  She thanked me for playing, smiled and walked off home with a skip in her step, talking occasionally to the dog.

I forgot to tell her my name.

a wild cd appears

Tonight I took a copy of Save Yourself for the girl who works at the convenience store.  She comes out and listens sometimes so I thought it’d be nice.  A couple who had parked a few spaces up finishing their cigarettes moved the car down in front of me so they could listen.  They sat for a few songs and then drove home with their groceries.  My clothes and the rain finished their cycle, and I walked home.

no free sitting

Last night when I turned up to wash and play, two Japanese families were eating at the No Free Sitting cafe.  That’s not the name, but there is a sign out the front to that effect, designed to scare away people who might sit for free.

They sat and listened and alternated between conversation and absorbtion. People working in nearby shops came outside to listen, returning only to serve customers, then coming back to join me. Two people stopped to ask for guitar lessons. As the families left, they waved, thanked me and clapped. I smiled and bowed in appreciation.

i am not busking

Tonight I went to do my washing and I realised I’d never done that on a Sunday night before - everyone in the world was there. I had to wait for a washing machine and then for a dryer so I was there for nearly two hours all up. I played every song I had - 18 in total, plus a few of my favourite covers that I like doing.  At one point a girl walked up to me and I must have looked at her strangely because she asked if I was busking.  I said no, she said “oh .. okay. well can I give you my change anyway? cause you’re doing really good”. I awkwardly said that she could and she dropped the coins in her hand on my jumper which was on the ground near me.  After that people must have gotten the impression I was as during then next song about 4 people walked past and started putting money with it. I quickly wrapped it up in between songs and put it behind me under my water bottle and went back to the task at hand; sharing music like a normal, wonderful part of life.

dance like you’re five

Laundromat shows (read: doing my washing) are always interesting, since different people are always there and react differently. My most interested audience member yet was a small boy.  I think he might have been half african.  He was in awe of the guitar before I even opened the case, and asked me in the most ‘kid just learning to speak’ way what was inside.  He stood in awe and danced, rocked out, or just stared with his mouth open the entire time, occasionally running off to play with his dad or look at something shiny.

how to play: step 1

When the washing machine I used moved out, I started going to the laundromat in Highgate Hill to do my washing.  The idea of sitting on my butt for an hour waiting for the machines wasn’t too appealing, so I took a guitar down with me and stood outside on the street and played while I waited.

But this is Highgate Hill, so weird shit happens.  This blog is a diary of those weird happenings.